The cherry blossoms are often the most visual reminder in our town each year that spring has sprung.
Everything is black, white and grey during our winters – the clouds, the ocean, the pavement, the bottoms of our very souls. After 4 months of snow and rain and clouds and vitamin D deficiency, we are absolutely ready for some color outside of the monochromatic scale.
And our cherry trees deliver.
Exploding out of nowhere in a riot of fluffy pink petals, they snap us out of our grey-scale reveries and get us prepared for the tulip season that looms in the very near future. Like the tutus of tiny ballerinas, the ruffled flowers are the thing I hold my breath for every year, to remind me that our whole year in the Pacific Northwest isn’t grey and drizzly.
But that’s not my favorite reminder of spring.
Shortly after the pink petals start to appear, I circle the first Saturday of April in my calendar.
That’s the day our town’s farmers market returns, and THAT is how I know spring has truly arrived.
So when the weekly farmers market returns after a long 3 months of once-a-month-that-I-always-miss markets, I am giddy. I dig through our storage space to find my market basket, even though it’s kind of falling apart. I count down the days at Wolfgang (yes AT him…he is slightly less enthused about the market than I am) and once that Saturday arrives, I am up with the sun so I don’t miss the cabbage toss.
I practically skip from the house to the car, I am that excited.
I have to stop to get cash first, because most of the vendors don’t take cards. My favorite produce lady will take a check from me because she knows where I live, and the mushroom people take cards, but mostly it’s a cash business.
To commemorate the opening of the market, the morning begins with a few speeches about how lucky we are to have all of these amazing growers and producers and bakers and floral stalls (we are VERY lucky) and how great we are at food recycling (very great!) and lots of people from our different sustainable non-profits speak about how we need to continue to grow our community in healthy and earth-friendly ways.
We are a hippy community at heart, and I love it so much.
After speeches, the “cabbage princess” and the designated local dignitary throw the ceremonial cabbage (not wholly unlike the first pitch in a baseball game), the big train bell rings and the market is open for business!
The atmosphere at the first market of spring is festive. We all emerge from our respective caves to greet the spring and each other, and there are lots of hugs and news to share. The first 15-20 minutes of every market day (but especially opening day), I spend saying hello to all of my friends.
Facebook keeps me up to date on people, but not like their actual faces do!
This is actually my favorite part of the market.
I always buy really good food. But knowing the people who make my food or grow my food or sell the awesome things I can put in my house or use every day – it changes the relationship one has with food and things.
Knowing the bakery that bakes our favorite “monster” bread and know they often “sneak” cookies to my kids as I’m getting my frequent buyer card punched. Knowing Pat who sells adorable planters, and know if you show up early enough, she also sells eggs from her fat, happy hens (who lay eggs with the most orange yolks you’ve ever seen). Knowing Roslyn, who grows nearly every vegetable we eat all summer long, and knowing she always has the best potatoes. Knowing the mushroom crew, and how they always save me a pint of chanterelles if they’re in season, and I often hold up the line chatting about what I made with last week’s selection of mushrooms. Knowing my dear friend Amy will decorate our skin with the most gorgeous henna designs, and is one of my favorite humans ever.
So if you have the distinct pleasure of visiting our little farmers market, here are 5 things I HIGHLY recommend that you pick up while you’re here:
- Bread. OMG, bread. Go to BreadFarm and get a loaf of the Monster Stoneground (or a whole Miche, if you’re better with a bread knife than I am!) and the chocolate shortbread. Then look for Raven Breads, buy whatever pastries they have that day (highly recommend the nettle brioche, pictured above) and any of their slow-fermented sourdough.
- Vegetables. Visit Roslyn at Rabbit Fields Farm (just look for the bright yellow umbrellas) and buy whatever she’s got in season. I highly recommend the potatoes, the carrots and the sunflower sprouts, but all her goods are certified organic and delicious. Sometimes, she even has recipes…and if you’re local, sign up for her CSA!
- Henna. Go see Amy over at Henna Lee. Tell her you have X amount of money and give her the reins. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. Everything she does is stunning. Oh, and get the glitter finish – it will come off with the paste, but it’s fun!
- Eggs. There are several vendors who sell other things, and eggs. Pat with the cowboy boot planters has eggs, but she sells out quick. Look for the small print at the bottom of some produce stands’ chalkboards – they even have pasture-raised duck eggs on occasion! Keep your eyes peeled.
- The buskers. Don’t pick them up (it’s probably really rude), but do stop to listen and keep an extra few dollars out of your cash to put in their buckets. Strangely is one of our favorites – he stands up on his string bass and tells amazingly bad dad jokes. There’s a young man who plays his violin who is INCREDIBLY talented, a man who plays his handmade hurdy gurdy, and a lovely gent who sings old songs in his steely operatic tenor.
All in all, even if you only come to get a pretzel from Ralf’s or to browse the handmade goods, a day trip from anywhere in Washington to our farmers market should be on your list for summer time!